As children across South Carolina gear up to go back to school, parents can take stock in the fact that their youngsters are being served a healthy, nutritious lunch.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services reports that South Carolina is one of two states nationwide with its school districts 100 percent certified for the 6-cent lunch reimbursement provided by the Healthy Hunger Free Act. The division’s undersecretary Kevin Concannon says school districts in South Carolina and Colorado were 100 percent compliant with the new healthy meal requirements.
“There are more than 1,200 public schools in South Carolina, as well as charter and private schools, and the fact that the state was able to achieve in these school districts 100 percent compliance clearly makes it a leader,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “One of only two states to achieve that in the very first year.”
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act provides additional six
cents per lunch reimbursement to school districts that certified to be in compliance with the new meal requirements.
Concannon says the meal requirements were developed to promote healthier eating to school children.
“There must be fruits and vegetables with each lunch. Plus the majority of the grains that are served must be whole grains. The milk must be nonfat or one percent.”
Concannon says First Lady Michelle Obama’s Campaign Against Childhood Obesity was influential in the development of the meal requirements.
“There are calorie limits for the first time in the history of the program. Historically there were minimum calories required, but there were not maximum calorie limits. We now have maximum calorie limits based on the age of the students.”
Concannon says the USDA’s recommendations on calorie limits were based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. The committee developing the recommendation, according to Concannon, was chaired by a noted pediatrician and included other physicians and professional dietitians.
Concannon notes that a report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that for the first time in decades progress has been made in stemming the rate of obesity in the country. He says the school meal requirements are helping that effort.
“I think the school meals program, which is available virtually to every child attending public schools in the United States and more than half of the private schools, is a great way to introduce and reinforce to kids healthier eating.”
In order to get more fresh fruits, vegetables and meats served in school cafeterias, Concannon says the USDA over the past few years have made adjustments to regulations to make it easier for local schools to do the purchasing of food items and the agency is promoting local purchasing.
“Often times when students know that a particular food is grown in the area, they are more willing to try it. We like that as well because those dollars go right back into the local community, the very people whose taxes are paying for the school programs.”